This past July, the students at CIP Berkshire took on the challenge of performing the classic musical The Wizard of Oz based on the beloved 1939 movie starring Judy Garland.
Auditions were held in late February for the show and 20 students signed up to audition for a role or to be a part of the production team. For their auditions, the students sang a song of their choice and then read scenes from the script to try their hand at various parts.
In order to create more opportunities for our talented students, I decided to “double cast” some of the roles, which means we had two girls playing Dorothy (each performing in 2 of the 4 shows.) There were also two Cowardly Lions, two Glindas and two Auntie Ems. When actors playing leading parts were not doing their primary role they became chorus members for the other performances.
We also needed some little munchkins for the show so we teamed up with the Berkshire Children’s Theater group who brought in a crew of seasoned local theater kids to fill in these parts. Even CIP Founder Dr. Michael Mcmanmon’s granddaughter, Claire, took on a role – Toto! With the addition of these children the cast totaled over 30 performers! It takes a village.
The casting took about two weeks to finalize and we began rehearsing right after the March break.
The Wizard of Oz is by any standards a challenging production! There are several quick costume changes and many set changes, a high speed “jitterbug” dance and lots of lines to memorize (especially for the role of Dorothy). The actress playing this part has to be onstage for almost the entire show!
CIP Berkshire students rehearsed once per week during the Spring semester and when they arrived for Summer term that’s when things really got hectic. In addition to our twice weekly 2-hour rehearsals, we also had a “Theater Practicum” class in which students painted sets, created props, hung up show posters around town, and helped to organize and select the perfect costumes for the characters.
Many cast members even got together on their own every Sunday evening to practice their lines together – great teamwork!
In addition to playing roles in the show, several students also took on jobs as stage managers, ushers, make-up artists, assistant directors, and stage crew.
The four performances were really a lot of fun for both the cast and the audiences. All the actors had great energy and really shone onstage. Yes, there were one or two missed lines and maybe a couple of late entrances, too, but that’s what makes theatre so spontaneous and fun. Every performance is different. You have to be on your toes! Some of the best moments actually happened when an actor had to cover for another actor’s late entrance. They had to improvise, which takes some real confidence and knowing how to stay in character. It worked perfectly and those improvised lines were priceless.
In the end, lots of laughter from the enthusiastic audiences and a standing ovation showed their appreciation for the hard work our students put in. I am so proud of the CIP Drama students and the great job they did on “Wizard”. I already miss working on the show with them.
It was indeed a wonderful journey to Oz.
About the Author
Kara Demler is the Creative Arts Coordinator at CIP Berkshire. She graduated from BCC with an Associate’s degree in Theater Arts and continued her studies at the undergraduate Voice and Opera program at SUNY Purchase. She was then accepted on a full scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia where she spent 4 years as an Artist in Residence. Kara has been a professional drama director in several Berkshire area schools as well as an acting teacher for Barrington Stage Company’s “kidsact”.